Day 4

Rensselaer, IN to Indianapolis, IN

Also: at the Brickyard

My ride from Rensselaer to Indianapolis was uneventful except to say that stopping on a freeway (traffic tie-ups) with a semi behind you is a bit unnerving. You might say "avoid semis" but how do you avoid them when they outnumber cars 2 to 1? I got to my hotel without incident and I was able to check in right away despite the fact it was still pretty early in the morning. A pack of Ducatis was aleady there and one more arrived (in a trailer) from New Jersey before I headed for the track.
I drove in and parked beside a group who'd ridden from Georgia.
I walked into Indy, chatting with Carrie from Georgia. We walked under the racetrack using a tunnel and as we emerged, you could see a huge jumbotron displaying information about the weekend and immediately in front of us, the Hall of Fame building.
Carrie was kind enough to take my picture for me and, of course, I reciprocated.
This is Carrie.
This display was to the left of the main doors and the bronze plaques showed some of the history of cars at Indy.
I visited the garage area next...
...where, of course, gas is available...
...but all the garages had been converted into a marketplace.
From there, I went to the Plaza...
...where they had a stage set up for a Q&A session.
Q&A was led by the commentators from Speed Channel (here's Greg White) but members of the crowd could and did ask questions as well.
This is Casey Stoner from Team Ducati Alice who won the Moto GP Championship in 2007.
This group of Rizla Suzuki riders (L to R: Chris Vermeulen, Loris Capirossi, and Ben Spies) were particularly funny to listen to. Vermeulen is a personal favourite of mine since he was so kind as to chat for a bit with an old lady (me) last year at the GP at Laguna Seca.
Valentino Rossi is my absolute favourite. He's a GREAT rider and seems to be a very fine young man. I'm sure his parents are very proud of him. He, too, was very humourous and well spoken.
Since the remaining part of the Q&A as being broadcast over the track PA and shown on the jumbotrons which are everywhere, I decided to leave the Plaza and go to the track and the pits which were open to the public Thursday only. On the way in, still in the Plaza, was this old Harley sidecar...
...and this old Indy race car.
I struck up a conversation with this fellow from Indiana who hasn't missed a 500 since he started coming in the 60s. He told me that this car and all others in the Hall of Fame Museum are all in perfect working order and during each Indy 500, they bring out a few of them to ride laps around the track.
Still walking towards the entrance to the pits, I came across this motorcycle which is designed for wheelchair access. Interesting.
Finally! "Inside"! The front grandstands and the spotting tower.
The fence separating the fans from racing bikes/cars is reinforced with many cables.
The bricks! For anyone who doesn't know, the Indy track was originally made of crushed stone and tar that just didn't work out so... bricks were placed over top of that surface. Over time,as the brick surface got rougher, asphalt was placed on top of it. By the sixties, the only part that remained (and still does) is a yard of bricks which is at the finish line.
And here I am... at the finish line...
...and the photographer (left) for that picture was a fellow from Bristol who came from England with his two buddies for the race! I know one of the others was from Wales but I forget what the third man said.
Along pit road, riders ride past these stations and get information from their crews.
During the race, crews keep track of their riders and hold up big boards to let their riders know how they're doing as they ride past on the track. Notice the screens in the box. You can't see it in this picture but there is also a mini "weather station" on the roofs of some of these to keep track of wind direction and speed for one thing.
There's the "Doctor's" info board leaning against the pole. Mechanics jet around of mopeds all the time, seemingly to retrieve important tools/equipment when needed.
Here are Rossi's two bikes. Each rider has two and I suppose each rider may have a favourite of the two, but essentially, the second bike is there "in case"... mechanical problems, tire selections, etc.
Colin Edwards (#5), an American who rides for Yamaha, came out to sign autographs. I took a picture instead since I got his autograph previously at Laguna Seca. Let someone else get a thrill, getting his autograph and a brief chat. From two years going to Laguna, I know that Edwards is always quite nice in this way.
The bottom portion of the observation tower with a couple of the pace cars parked underneath.
The tower which shows the order vehicles are running.
As a graphics fan, I thought the Suzuki garage was done up best. You might not be able to quite see that Vermeulen's and Capirossi's images are part of the backdrop's design. Speaking of designs, I can hardly wait to see the race day helmets. Rossi's, in particular, are ALWAYS quite spectacular.
There was a stunt show on pit lane during the pit walk.
These guys take wheelies to a whole different level.
Interesting that this rider's bike was a BMW.
I was thinking I should perhaps get another picture on the yard of bricks but I noticed a HUGE crowd. When I got closer to investigate, I discovered that all the riders were on the yard of bricks, likely for a promo picture of some kind. I like this shot because I've never seen so many camera pointed (and clicking) at a bunch of people's backs!
You could tell who was emerging from the crowd by the amount of cheering. Vale certainly got one of the biggest cheers.
I wanted to get "just one more" picture on the bricks. What was once almost a deserted area was now packed with people.
I had a man from Boston take my picture "falling" over the finish line for all my "believers" back home. Sorry... inside joke.
I'm sure the guys from Boston who took the picture thought I was nuts, but they still took the picture and I, as always, reciprocated.
I wanted a view of the starting grid but you needed to stand on top of the cement wall to do so. That was not allowed BUT you'll notice I still got the picture I wanted...
...No one told these Moto GP events coordinators from Spain (home of Moto GP offices) that they had to get down so the guy on the left took the picture for me. I had a nice chat with the two fellows about how they got they got into working for Moto GP. Both had worked in other types of racing before GP and the fact that Spain was the GP's headquarters made it a natural progression.
This is bottom half of the victory podium. Notice the lift which lifts the winning vehicle up to the podium to join its rider.
And here I am (complete with umbrella girls) with the actual trophy for the premiere race.
Spotting booth that you could see once you went up on the podium.
Start/finish line grandstands. Normally, these would be prime tickets but in motorcycle racing, being near corners is more exciting. I have a ticket at the Southwest Vista where riders come jetting down the long straight only to brake hard for the first, then a series of 4 more curves. That means I'll probably see lots of passing!
Guess who rode by on a scooter just then? I'd be interested to know just who was checking out the track with Valentino. I believe it's his team manager but I'm not sure.
Yet another person was kind enough to take my picture, this time in the main grandstands. The lady was from Indiana and she was there with her husband...
...and her grandson who evidently (or should I say obviously) enjoys climbing stairs.
I then left the pit area to visit the dealer displays. Unfortunately, it was 5:00 and the displays were closed. This nice lady from the Kawasaki booth did give me a kick stand pad for which I am totally grateful. The one I had went missing.
Although closed, the Yamaha people let me look at the show bikes... tricked up or custom decorated Yammies. This bike was quite nice but...
...the one that really caught my eye was this one.
Note the clear wheel with the titanium finish rims. Awesome!
This pink one had very nice detailing. I liked the fact that FINALLY, there was a design a woman could love. Take note of the riding seat. Cool!
The defining feature on this bike was the scratch on the... Just joking! Look at the size of that back tire. And the bike had a couple if nitrous tanks attached. I wanted to know if the owner did drag strip racing with it.
It was getting a bit overcast and I'd trudged as much as my feet could allow me to so I headed back to the parking lot.
But of course, me being me, there's always "just one more thing"! A worker allowed me next to the actual circuit so that I could see what the track surface was like in the corners. This picture also looks towards the Southwest Vista where I'll be sitting during the race.
This is a good view of the airwall covered by poster board which would protect a rider should he be unlucky enough to go down in this corner.
A quick picture of the Hall of Fame Museum and some of the lovely gardens around it.
A quick sit down to listen to James Toseland (one of the riders) who gave a performance on the piano accompanied by members of the Indianapolis symphony. Toseland is a classically trained pianist who, during the off season, has a second career with his group called "Crash". The performance was very good. Although I did not make it back to the Plaza to see him play in person, I could hear the whole thing through the PA system and watch on the jumbotrons.
It was finally time to go back to my hotel and collapse into a much needed sleep.

        Map of Day 4 to left.

        Next: Day 5
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